GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Beware who you criticize and for what, for you could be next in line! The last laugh is on me, after poking fun at headline writers who are too rushed to reread what they have written. I just published this: “Thieves caught robbing Nyon train station safe”.
A minute later I happened to reread it on the published page and realized it sounds like they made a safe getaway. Not so! Here’s the corrected version: “Thieves caught robbing safe at Nyon train station” – and they are now behind bars.
A growing number of readers of news are reading fewer and fewer words from articles, with many of them never making it past the headline, so I repeat my argument that getting these right matters.
Which reminds me of one I’ve been chewing over since I read it in the Irish Times and then the BBC the other day, a reference to “the worst recession in memory”.
I’ve been trying to work out whose memory we’re referring to, or if this should have been the more popular “in recent memory” (google that and you’ll start to see what it means to use a clichéd phrase) or perhaps “in living memory” in which case who is the oldest person alive who can share personal memories from the Great Recession of the 30s?
The Guardian had a twist on it, which makes more sense than the others: “Ireland’s love of print can survive the worst of recessions” / This is a small country of 4.5 million but these are people who buy newspapers.
Headlines at newspapers used to be written mainly by young writers starting out in journalism who were given the job as a kind of proving ground. Today, most journalists write their own headlines, and these should be better.
Sometimes we get it wrong, though, first time around.